“It’s been weeks and my breastfed baby still latches nonstop. I’m so tired. How to tell if the baby is still hungry after breastfeeding?”
We get this question all the time in our parenting community. Do not fret, mums. We’re sending help through this article.
Your Hungry Newborn
As you begin your breastfeeding journey with your newborn baby, you might think that they never stop feeding. They cry incessantly and the only way you can pacify them is by offering your breasts or a bottle.
This makes you worry that you aren’t feeding your baby enough, or that you may be overfeeding them. So how to tell if your baby is still hungry after breastfeeding? And how can you tell if the baby is hungry or they just want comfort?
Perhaps you’re also wondering how large or small a baby’s stomach is. But a newborn’s stomach size isn’t as simple as it appears. The stomach keeps growing in the initial days post-childbirth, and you will also see a growth in the appetite. So, don’t be shocked if your baby seems hungrier than usual.
In this article, we’ll be looking into some telltale signs that a baby is hungry, what science has to say about your little tot’s stomach size and the best way to feed them. But keep in mind that not all babies are the same and that this is merely a guide to keeping you better informed on how to tell if your baby is still hungry after breastfeeding.
Signs of an Underfed Baby
Of course, feeding your baby should not only be based on how small you think their stomach is. Just like knowing when the baby is full is a way to prevent colic, you should also learn to spot signs of an underfed baby and pay more attention to his feeding. Here are some characteristics of underfed babies:
- For newborns, their skin has become more yellow
- They cry or fuss a lot
- They like sucking on their hands
- They seem lethargic and not active even when they’re awake
- They have less than 4 wet and/or dirty diapers in a day
- Dark coloured urine
- They constantly root or open their mouth
- They aren’t gaining enough weight or gaining weight very slowly
If you notice these symptoms in your baby, do not hesitate to consult their paediatrician.
What’s The Best Way To Feed A Baby?
Some mums breastfeed every two hours or every four hours – is this a good idea?
Feeding based on times between feeds may not be so wise, considering that we don’t know precisely how large an infant’s stomach is. One infant can remain full for a few hours, while another may need extra feeds.
Wondering how to tell if your baby is still hungry after breastfeeding? The ideal way to ensure they’re not hungry is by looking out for your baby’s hunger cues and feeding on demand. Sometimes this may mean feeding multiple times within the hour.
This approach is also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and La Leche League International.
Interestingly, feeding on demand isn’t a new realisation. Even women who are part of hunter-gatherer tribes used the same method.
Researchers studying the Kung hunter-gatherers of Namibia and Botswana noticed that during daylight hours, the women breastfed infants between 12 weeks and 2.5 years old a whopping four times an hour. Each breastfeeding session was repeated roughly 13 minutes after the other.
False Hunger Cues in a Newborn
Hearing your baby might have a scary-sounding reflux disease can increase the likelihood you request medication. | Image source: iStock
You have just fed your baby but he keeps on twisting and turning, and arching his back. You panic and you bring out the best, quickest way to get him to stop fussing – the boob.
However, newborns usually fuss after feeding, and the actions mentioned above can mislead parents to think that they are still hungry, when it’s not actually the case.
Once your baby is full, he may experience bodily sensations like wanting to burp or poop, or even let out some gas – and some newborns find them irritating and distracting. And since babies are born with limited communication skills, they could be signaling that they need a break from their own bodily functions, which can be misinterpreted as signs of hunger.
You may also notice that your newborn will take your breasts anytime you offer it to him. While leaning towards the breast can be considered a hunger sign, remember that newborns also have rooting and sucking reflex that prompt them to do this.
Is My Baby Hungry if He Kicks Too Much
If your baby is kicking more than usual, that could mean he needs food. Or it could also mean another thing. The good news is that this doesn’t have to be as big of a deal as it seems.
If you notice that your baby is moving around more than usual, but he hasn’t been fed in a while (like an hour after his last feeding), then go ahead and feed him!
But if he was just fed a few minutes ago and he’s still kicking and screaming, you may also want to check for other issues like if his nappy is dirty, or he is feeling too hot or too cold, or he just needs a bit of tummy time to let out some gas.
Hunger Signs in Newborns
In order to tell if your newborn is hungry, you need to pay attention to the cues that he makes that can tell you that it’s time for a feeding session.
- being more awake and active (thinking about food makes babies excited)
- turning their head to the side, as if looking for food
- opening and closing their mouth (like little birds waiting for the parent bird in a nest)
- turning their head toward the breast or chest, or a bottle
- making sucking motions with their mouth (even if they don’t have a pacifier)
- smacking their lips, drooling more, or sticking out their tongue
- sucking on their fingers, hands, or clothing
- clenching their hands into little fists (they’re getting a little frustrated and impatient!)
- staring at you and following you around the room with their eyes — if you’re the primary person who feeds them
- giving you a furrowed brow, distressed look that says, “When are we eating?”
Remember, mums, crying is usually the last hunger cue that a baby makes, so it’s best to pay attention to the earlier signs mentioned above.
How to Tell if Baby Is Still Hungry After Feeding
You just fed your baby, but he’s still crying. So you’re left wondering if it’s time to feed him again. Is he still hungry? It can be hard to tell, especially if you just fed him. Here are some signs that will help you determine if your baby is still hungry after feeding:
- If your baby is crying while nursing or bottle-feeding but stops once he has finished eating and burps, then chances are he’s full.
- If your baby falls asleep while breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, he probably ate enough. However, if your baby wakes up shortly after falling asleep, it may be time to feed again.
- If your baby is pulling away from the breast or bottle when you try to feed him more milk, then it’s likely that he doesn’t want any more milk right now.
How to Tell if Baby Is Hungry or Wants Comfort
You can’t blame your baby for wanting to nurse out of comfort. Besides, calming an upset baby is a natural part of parenting, and nothing can be more natural than breastfeeding.
Moreover, comfort nursing brings about other benefits such as attachment, security, warmth, help for baby and mum in falling asleep, pain relief and providing your baby with necessary extra food during growth spurts.
However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by demands being placed on you while breastfeeding your baby around the clock, then something needs to change.
Spotting the hunger signs mentioned above can help you discern if your baby is indeed hungry, they’re just yearning to be close to you, or are just comfort-feeding.
Check their latch to tell if your baby is still hungry or only wants comfort. They’re likely hungry and eating if they are latching well and take long, drawn-out pulls. But if their sucking motion is shorter and shallower, then there’s a good chance they’re just comfort-nursing.
You can also check if your baby is indeed swallowing the milk. You can tell by the movement in their throat. Moreover, if you subscribe to using a pacifier for your child, you can first try soothing them with it. If they resist it, they must be hungry and sucking on a pacifier won’t do.
What to Do When Baby Is Nursing for an Hour and Still Hungry
We hear this a lot and before anything else, let us just say that we understand you, mums. We know how much of a struggle the first few months of breastfeeding is. It can make you so worried and exhausted breastfeeding your baby round the clock.
The first thing to remember is that breastfeeding is not something you have to do for an exact amount of time. It’s a relationship between you and your baby, and it’s unique a unique journey that you have. This is practice for you to tune in to what your baby needs.
So, rely on that special connection. You’ll know when it’s time to stop because your baby will let you know!
If it’s been an hour and your baby is still nursing, try:
- Switching to another breastfeeding position that they may be comfortable with.
- Putting them down to do the usual checking of their diaper
- Waiting for them to unlatch and then gently putting them down on their crib.
- If they are awake when they unlatch, consider playing with them by putting them on tummy time or talking to them.
- Don’t forget to carry them in an upright position after every feed to help them burp.
These days are hard, mum. But they are definitely worth it. Give it time, and soon you will know your child well enough to know when he’s hungry and when he just wants to snuggle with mum.
It might be exhausting, but that cute smile and pure happiness make it all worthwhile. | Photo: iStock
Updated by Pheona Ilagan
Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.